Monthly Archives: October 2012

Social Media Evens the Playing Field

 I have been on Facebook for nearly six years. I have noticed that to some extent, it evens the playing field. Let me explain.

I use an augmentative communication device and it takes a significant amount of time to respond during conversations. People who really know me know to wait, however, people who don’t understand tend to get impatient. It’s a frustrating element of using a communication device. However, on social media networks such as Facebook, that barrier disappears.

On Facebook, I can message people and comment at my own speed. People aren’t looking impatiently. I can get everything I want to say to be heard without people guessing. Most importantly, I have privacy from people who don’t necessarily have to hear the conversation such as personal care attendants. Most adults or teenagers who are disabled have minimal amounts of privacy. Facebook can give them that sense of privacy. I am not suggesting that a teenager should have complete privacy on Facebook, however, an adult can use Facebook to have private conversations without other people being or feeling excluded.

Social network sites can provide a window into the life of a person with a disability. Emma Tracey, a podcaster for Ouch Podcast who is blind says, “I tend to tweet things which might make other non-disabled people think. If I was out with the dog and there was a car on the pavement I’d write that I had to walk on the main road, which everyone understands is very dangerous when you can’t see” (www.bbc.co.uk). As you can see, social networking can help us people with disabilities advocate for themselves.

As you can see, all types of social media help people with disabilities. This video shows how people with disabilities and people who are elderly can connect with people they would not have otherwise.

I encourage people with disabilities to be present on Facebook and Twitter for multiple reasons—especially for their own privacy and self advocacy. If you are just beginning to use social media, please “Like” us on Facebook or follow Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region on Twitter.

To “Like” us on Facebook, go to: http://on.fb.me/Te2loa

To follow us on Twitter, go to:   www.twitter.com/eastersealsdfvr

Advertisements

Caregivers Early in Life Means Independence

There are advantages of having your child with special needs have a caregiver at a young age. For obvious reasons, it can be difficult for parents to trust someone outside of the family. However, if parents do not expose their child to other caregivers early in life, it can have ramifications later.

“You need-and certainly deserve-a break from time to time. In fact, without any “time off” from your parental duties, you are at risk for developing a stress-related illness, and jeopardizing your mental health” (families.com).  Parents can use this time to go out on a date or have the caregiver help during the day. This also allows the child to gain trust outside of the family which is important when they live in a group home or live independently with caregivers. Several successful stories can be found at:  abilitypath.org. For a independent future for your child, it starts with the first few relationships. “These first relationships are the foundation for young children’s growth and development in social, emotional, behavioral, language and cognitive domains. This is true for all children, including children with, or at risk for developmental disabilities” (ncast.org).

On a personal note, I’ve had several success stories. I had many babysitters since I was in pre-school. In addition to babysitters, I’ve always had an assistant with me at school. These women helped me realize that anyone was capable of helping me. There is one woman in particular that stands out when I think about care outside of my family.

 My family hired a young woman named Allison to be my respite care worker when I was 12. She came to give my parents date nights and a few weekends away. At the beginning, my mom would stay home and watch Allison interact with my younger siblings and me. As time went on, we began to look forward to our time with Allison. We would want Mom and Dad to leave so we could have fun and make ice cream sundaes! As the years passed, Allison and I became friends. She would take me to the city, on my first road trip and to other fun outings.

After seven years of spending time with me, I no longer needed Allison. I was going off to college and she was settling down with her boyfriend. She gladly helped me with the first week of college. After that, she got married and had a beautiful baby boy. I couldn’t imagine not having Allison in my life.

Allison helped me realize that anybody who was trained properly could help me. Working with Allison who was a virtual stranger at first, helped me be independent in college and after graduation. I feel as if my parents had not exposed me to people like Allison, I would not have had the confidence to be as independent as I was during my college years and beyond.  My family used the Jewish Children’s Bureau (www.jcfs.org) to find Allison. My family and I know it can be challenging to find the right first caregiver. Here are some resources to help you start: